Civics Quiz

April 15, 2018

Smarter than a 7th Grader

Revised 16 April 2018

Supposedly only 10% of adults can pass a 7th grade civics taste. How can this be, especially when the questions asked are very common place and often when one of two choices is ridiculous? At any rate, doing the quizzes – this one from Offbeat online – is something I enjoy. So, I gave it a try. Here are questions with my answers.

  1. What is the aim of “checks and balances?”   The means by which government is limited.
  2. Who is first in presidential succession?   The vice-president.
  3. What is the “Bill of Rights?”   The first ten amendments to our Constitution.
  4. What was the first American national constitution?   The Articles of Confederation.
  5. How many government divisions does our Constitution provide?   Three branches.
  6. What is the Civil Rights Act?   The 1964 act banning forms of discrimination.
  7. How many members does the House of Representatives have?   435.
  8. What duties are mandatory for U.S. citizens?   Jury duty and serving as a witness.
  9. Who automatically becomes a U.S. citizen?   A child born on U.S. soil.[i]
  10. What is a joint committee?   A committee of both Congressional chambers.
  11. What power is forbidden the President.   The line-item veto.
  12. What is the plebiscite?   The group of people voting.[ii]
  13. Who presides over the Senate?   The Vice President.[iii]
  14. How many votes are required for overriding a veto?   At least 2/3 majority of each chamber.
  15. What is the full length of a Senator’s term?   Six years.
  16. What is a member of the Supreme Court called?   A justice.
  17. What is impeachment?   Congress puts the President on trial.
  18. What is our national anthem called?   The Star-Spangled Banner.
  19. Who was the first president of the United States?   George Washington.[iv]
  20. What are first words of the Constitution?   “We the people …”
  21. What does the second amendment provide?  The right to bear arms.[v]
  22. What entities were eligible to participate in the Articles of Confederation and the formation of the Constitution?   States from the original 13 colonies (Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island[vi], South Carolina, Virginia).
  23. What is the highest judicial authority in the United States.   The Supreme Court.
  24. When are federal taxes due.   April 15.[vii]
  25. In what state is the Statue of Liberty?   New York.
  26. What is the capital city of the United States?   Washington, D.C.
  27. What was the largest land purchase made by the United States?   The Louisiana Territory.
  28. How many times can a person run for a seat in the Senate.   There is no limit.
  29. Who is known as “the father of his country?”   George Washington.
  30. What war is also called “the war between the states?”   The Civil War.
  31. Who succeeds to the presidency following the Vice President?   The Speaker of the House.
  32. Which of two states was not an original part of the U.S.?   California.
  33. Where is the right to bear arms in the Constitution?   The Bill of Rights.[viii]
  34. Who wrote the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson.[ix]
  35. What is the voting strength of the House of Representatives.   435 votes.
  36. Is the media a branch of the government?   No.
  37. Is the Supreme Court composed of members of Congress?   Not current ones.
  38. What does the Supreme Court do?   The Court determines the constitutional standing of laws at issue.
  39. Which of two holidays is not a U.S. holiday?   Boxing Day.
  40. Who is the current Chief Justice?   John Roberts.

More than 40 questions are in the quiz, but I stopped at 40 when the questions seemed repetitive and many of two options to each question seemed really hokey. I kept track of my answers but not the phrasing of the questions, which are made explicit here. And as I point out in the endnotes, the “right” answer is several times only part of a fuller answer.

No doubt civics is importantly necessary for communities to live and work together. Civics owes it development to such thoughtful past sages and documents as Confucius, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, the Magna Carta, Beccaria and the Enlightenment following him, through our own political thinkers – see the Federalist Papers – and many other sources.

Unfortunately, civics seems to be easily ousted from school curriculums and confused by popular distractions. I have become frustrated and upset about our political parties being worked up by all kids of partisan issues and not by questions of the common good as their civic base which I thought was a democracy.


[I] Also, a child born to a citizen parent.

[ii] Or eligible to vote.

[iii] A substitute when the VP is absent.

[iv] Actually, since the first constitution was the Articles of Confederation (question 4) the first executive was John Hanson, an almost forgotten founder of our nation.

[v] Also, the freedom of assembly and of the press.

[vi] Rhode Island did not send delegates to the Constitutional Convention; it did not pass on the Constitution in its first vote and was the last of the 13 to join the new nation.

[vii] Exceptions are when the 15th is a Sunday and when the following Monday is a federal holiday, as in 2018.

[viii] That is in the second amendment which also states the right to keep arms.

[ix] Jefferson was known for his writing. He also borrowed from a declaration of George Mason and his own first draft of the Virginia Constitution. Also involved were John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Robert R. Livingston, and Roger Sherman who proposed stylistic alterations.